We all have our unique career stories. The death of veteran media trainer and writer Tito Banda on Tuesday reminded me of the rivers I have crossed and mountains I have climbed in my career.
Between 1997 and 1999, I was a self-taught reporter for Your Market and the now-defunct Business Mail newspapers. It was Tito, then Your Market consultant editor, who took me through the basics of journalism at his Pen-Point School of Journalism in Blantyre.
A quiet but very sharp observer, always skeptical at first sight of things as all journalists are supposed to be, Tito not only taught but was so thorough Pen-Point was hardly one of those diploma mills in town.
At Pen-Point, students failed examinations and prospective students, even if they were able to pay school fees, could be rejected for not meeting basic enrolment standards of a year-long certificate course.
Tito refused to introduce diploma courses at Pen-Point for he was too smart to cheat himself that his institution had the structures for such studies.
Tito taught me sports news writing. He was so practical he dispatched student journalists to sports venues to do match review assignments. You could never bring him a match report that failed to paint the mood.
Tito taught us using his own published news articles and challenged us to critique his work against what he taught us.
He was never afraid of being ‘edited’ as is the case with some elder statesmen of the local journalism fraternity who are so notorious for just critiquing the work of others.
In addition, Tito taught me a practical lesson of being ethical.
One day, I was too lazy to go out read, research, observe and analyse as he always demanded in feature writing assignments.
From the couch at home, I wrote a 20-paragraph feature. Upon presenting it to him, he in seconds read the introduction and said: “Peter, don’t cheat me. You did not even step on the Delamere House which you have mentioned in this feature.”
I learnt a career-long lesson of first being honest with myself then with my writing.
Tito was a man of integrity. I am relieved that all these years I kept calling Tito in Mzuzu, where he taught at Mzuzu University, to tell him how grateful I was.
Tito’s legacy certainly lives on.